Africa doesn’t need tied aid, says Chinese official

Rwanda is exploring a development path suited to its own national conditions, a way   that ensures national stability, unity and economic growth at the same time, Lu Shaye, the director-general in the Department of African Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. 
Lu during the interview with African journalists in Beijing last week. Paul Ntambara.
Lu during the interview with African journalists in Beijing last week. Paul Ntambara.

Rwanda is exploring a development path suited to its own national conditions, a way   that ensures national stability, unity and economic growth at the same time, Lu Shaye, the director-general in the Department of African Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. 

Lu, who this week held an interview with African journalists in Beijing, China said over the past 15 years, Sino-Africa cooperation has been growing rapidly and has had a major impact. 

The New Times’ Paul Ntambara attended the event. Excerpts;-

Could you give an insight into China-Africa Cooperation

Over the past 12 to 15 years, Sino-Africa cooperation has been growing rapidly and has had major international impact. China’s Africa policy is consistent; it will not change due to changes in international or domestic situations in both Africa and China. Our policy is as follows: we attach importance to our friendly and cooperative relationship with African countries and we will step up cooperation in all fields. 

A good example is what happened after the 2008 international financial crisis. China’s assistance to Africa at that time didn’t decrease, instead we delivered on our promise and continued to provide assistance. In 2009, during the fourth Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Sino-Africa Cooperation, the Chinese government made announcement of policies for assistance to Africa which we called ‘the new aid measures.’

The Chinese government at that time committed itself to provide concession loans within three years to Africa. China promised $20 billion of credit line to Africa in three years and, by September 2013, we had already provided $10 billion, which means that just within one-third of our committed period we had provided one half of the credit line. 

Stepping up unity and cooperation with African Countries has been the firm policy and strategic choice of the Chinese government. Let me assure you that China will always be Africa’s reliable partner and sincere friend.

How do you rate China-Rwanda relations?

China enjoys a sound relationship with Rwanda; Rwanda is a small country but it is a unique one. Sino-Rwanda relationship has developed fast, especially over the past 10 years. The two countries have maintained traditional friendship and cooperation with each other. In each phase of Rwanda’s development, China has been friendly and cooperative; this cooperation has been growing very quickly.

We are committed to continue improving our friendship and cooperation. We will conduct that cooperation in the following fields; we want start up political exchanges and deepen mutual trust. 

We want to step up exchanges in governance; in this context we know that Rwanda is exploring a development path suited to its own national conditions, a way   that ensures national stability, unity and economic growth at the same time.

Is China getting a fair deal in its trade and relationship with Africa?

China has a fair deal and it has benefited from such cooperation because our cooperation is for win-win results. In conducting our two way cooperation, we have realised an increase in our trade volumes. 

China has benefited a lot from goods from Africa, especially the natural resources, and in conducting cooperation with China, Africa has benefited as well in areas like infrastructure development which is essential for economic development.

Prices of Africa’s resources increased on the international market due to demand from China, this has provided funding to promote its development. According to research outcome of some international institutions, the contribution of Sino-Africa cooperation to economic growth of Africa exceeds 20 per cent. Even some African friends say over the past 10 to 15 years Africa relied much on China for its investment and trade.

China has gained resources and market access, which is important for our economic growth but Africa benefited more from such cooperation. More importantly, our cooperation has not only directly improved economic growth of our respective countries, it has also attracted great international attention and input to Africa. 

Due to China’s presence in Africa, the interest of other countries has been stimulated. In the past, they thought that Africa was a continent of despair and hopelessness, but with China’s presence these countries have realised that Africa is a continent with limitless opportunities.

On how China conducts its business in Africa, observers say there is no technical knowledge transfer and that most Chinese companies in Africa employ Chinese even in the most of menial jobs...

In conducting cooperation and providing assistance to Africa, China has been providing technical assistance to Africa without any reservation. Chinese workers and technicians have been teaching their African counterparts how to do the job well. 

For example, on a recent visit to Senegal, I found out that one Chinese technician was teaching seven to eight Senegalese workers to do the job. In Africa, China has accomplished a number of projects; for example, conference halls, stadia and power stations. After the completion of each project, China would leave a technical team to help the local people operate and maintain the project; for example, Chinese workers would teach local workers how to operate and repair the equipment. 

Yet there is an impression that China has been reluctant in conducting technical transfer to Africa, the reason is as follows: China has indeed provided training to African workers but after acquiring the skills, African workers would switch their jobs. 

So there is an impression that African countries cannot independently run the projects, but have to rely on the Chinese technicians. Is it so?

The Chinese technical teams, after completing the projects, rotate on a two-year basis and sometimes they might run five or eight terms of rotations. I worked in Guinea between 1988-1991, China helped Guinea build a conference hall in the 1970s and after the completion of the project, China left a technical team for the locals and when I visited Guinea in 2004, the technical team was still there.

China is committed to providing technical skills transfer and training for the African people in the knowledge that even when these trained workers leave; they continue to serve their country. 

On the jobs, when I was working in Senegal, China was devoting a lot of effort to help the country build a national theatre, the ratio between Chinese and African workers was 1:8, the same is true in other countries where we conduct projects. China has a big national oil company; CNPC, its workforce in Africa is 25,400 among which 17,600 are African workers, so the localisation rate is 82 per cent.

 My argument is also endorsed by some reports of some Western Think Tanks. For example, Prof. Deborah Brautigam from the University of America, authored a book ‘the Dragon’s Gift.’ In 2001, she wrote that the international community has seven points of misunderstanding about Sino-Africa relations. One point of misunderstanding is that China has generated a big inflow of workers into Africa. 

This she called a misunderstanding or misreading. She said, according to research, China has a total of 2142 projects in Africa and Chinese workforce in Africa stands at 114,000, so on average it is 53 Chinese staff for each Chinese project. 

The majority of the Chinese staff are managers or technicians. So on average, the China-assisted projects employ a majority of African workers. This is the meaning of Sino-Africa cooperation. 

Why has China opted not to attach political strings to its cooperation with Africa as is the case with Western countries? 

The African countries don’t need this. The argument that such no strings attached cooperation represents a betrayal of the African people is illogical. China has provided a lot of assistance and helped build a lot of projects in Africa. 

Our purpose is to promote economic and social development in Africa and improve the livelihoods of the African people. We have helped African countries build infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, stadiums, hospitals, schools and urban and rural water supply systems, in doing so have we betrayed the African people? 

I understand the underlying meaning of this concern. Under some circumstances, some African governments are in collision with their own people and in conducting cooperation, China is working together with these governments. But who has set the African governments and their people in collision with each other? 

I believe the mastermind is some Western forces, they are imposing or transplanting Western democratic systems onto Africa and this has created a division among some African societies because such multi-party political system is not suited to the current stage of development in Africa. By adopting such systems, some African countries have ended up in chaos. 

Of course, some African countries don’t collide with their own people; for such nations, it is good for China to provide assistance without strings attached. So I believe that the argument that China’s cooperation with Africa has supported autocratic and corrupt government is flawed.

 

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